Pain Under Right Breast: Not Always a Reason to Fret Over

By Melody Lee |
|5 min read

Thanks to great advances in breast cancer awareness, women now know that they have to be on the lookout for certain symptoms, including pain under right breast.

This awareness has sometimes turned into alarm. However, there are many organs present around the upper-right quadrant of a woman's chest. These include the right lung, kidney, gallbladder, ribs, as well as several muscles — all of which could play a role in causing pain to this area.

There are many different causes for this symptom, and each one will prompt specific treatments and management strategies.

Common Causes of Breast Pain

1. Pleurisy

Pleurisy is a swelling of the inner lining of both lungs and chest. This can usually be identified as a sharp pain under the right breast or the left breast, as it rarely affects both lungs simultaneously. This pain is often triggered following pneumonia or a severe flu. Because of this, the accompanying symptoms, which include fever and shortness of breath, tend to be caused by the infection itself, rather than by pleurisy.

2. Rib injury

Many types of injury in or around the rib can cause severe, numbing pains around the right breast. These most commonly affect the bones themselves, but occasionally may also involve the surrounding muscles. Because of the large number of nerve endings surrounding each rib, this type of pain can be hard to identify. Women who have recently suffered physical trauma, such as a blow to the chest or a car accident, should get X-rays in order to rule this out.

3. Anxiety

Both generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorders are very common, although rarely talked about. Despite being mental illnesses, they often express themselves as physical pain. When anxiety levels rise and a person suffers from an anxiety attack, it is common to experience shortness of breath, rapid heartbeats, and a pressing sensation, as if a large weight has been set on top of a woman's chest. These physical symptoms are usually accompanied by intense fear.

4. Costochondritis

Costochondritis is the clinical term for the inflammation of the cartilage tissue that sits between each rib. Unlike typical rib injuries, costochondritis is most often caused by over-exercising. In some cases, especially among women with a tendency towards autoimmune conditions, costochondritis can be triggered by stress or by a passing virus like the common cold.

The pain caused by costochondritis is best described as a persistent soreness, which is more likely to be considered to be a moderate nuisance than an unbearable pain.

5. Digestive Problems

Many people usually link stomach problems with pain or discomfort in the lower abdominal region. However, the mouth of the stomach is actually a bit higher than this, being around the same height as the lower breast.

The most common types of digestive problems that could cause in breast pain include heartburn, trapped gas, or fecal impaction (which is itself a complication of severe and prolonged constipation).

While heartburn can usually be recognized for its burning pain on one side of the upper stomach right below the breast, both trapped gas and fecal impaction are mostly linked to blocked bowels or colon.

6. Fibrocystic Breast Disorder

Fibrocystic breast disorder is a relatively common condition among women of reproductive age, especially those with hormonal imbalances. It usually involves generalized breast tenderness in addition to pain deep inside the breast. It is accompanied by the appearance of small, hard cysts in breast tissue, which is often compared to little marbles when pressed on or massaged.

Fibrocystic breasts can be very alarming, as they can often mimic some of the most common symptoms of breast cancer. However, the cysts formed in cases of fibrocystic breasts are completely benign and usually caused by progesterone fluctuations during the second half of a woman's cycle. Although sometimes debilitating, this is a harmless condition.

Treatments for the Right-Side Breast Pain

The specific treatments to be followed for each type of pain, whether it's pain in the ribs under the chest, or across the entire breast region, will depend on the cause.

  • For pleurisy

Most of the time, treatments for pleurisy will address the infection that caused it. In addition, Panadol (paracetamol) or Aspirin can be used for pain. A doctor may also request a procedure called a thoracentesis to identify the original infection.

  • For rib injury

Rib injuries and fractures must be treated according to the doctor's prescription following an X-ray. This may range from bed rest, avoiding specific movements, or the use of a mechanical ventilator. Painkillers can also be prescribed for pain.

  • For anxiety

Treating anxiety will require a long-term approach, which combines both medications, such as Xanax (alprazolam) or Paxil (paroxetine), with psychotherapy or talks therapy. Other approaches include meditation, aromatherapy, or rational-emotional therapy.

  • For costochondritis

Most of the time, this can be treated with rest and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as Advil (ibuprofen). In cases of severe or chronic costochondritis, surgical intervention may be necessary.

  • For digestive problems

Treatment for digestive problems will almost always involve dietary changes, especially a balanced diet with fewer fats and alcohol, more fiber, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • For fibrocystic breast disorder

There is no definitive treatment for this condition, but there are many ways to manage it. As it tends to be more intense during specific parts of the menstrual cycle, some doctors recommend tracking periods and taking Advil or Aspirin the day before the pain is scheduled to start. Birth control pills can also help regulate the cycle.

Preventing Pain Under Right Breast

The most important way to prevent right breast pain is to follow a healthy lifestyle. This should include plenty of moderate exercises, as well as a healthy diet, and reducing alcohol and cholesterol intake.

For women who are prone to anxiety, cardio activities and yoga can also help keep moods in check. Lowering stress will also help prevent the hormonal imbalances linked to fibrocystic breasts. In addition, those who opt for more high-impact activities should take precautions to avoid direct blows or muscle strains in the thorax or around the ribs.


Sharp pain under right breast can be alarming, and when intense, it can also be debilitating. Before pursuing any treatment, it's important to check with a health practitioner to properly identify the cause. Once that is completed, relief will be on its way!



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